United States Sees Small Gains With Low Birthweight Babies

Posted July 27, 2017
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog usseessmallgains 2017

In 2015, 8.1% of Amer­i­can babies — 320,869 infants — were born at a low birthweight.

This sta­tis­tic has slow­ly improved over time and puts the Unit­ed States on par with nations like Kenya, Iran, Uruguay and the Unit­ed Repub­lic of Tan­za­nia. These coun­tries have all report­ed that 8% of their babies are born weigh­ing less than 2,500 grams (about 5.5 pounds) or less, accord­ing to UNICEF, which reports on birth­weight data globally.

UNICEF’s data­base, last updat­ed in Octo­ber 2014, reveals that more than 55 coun­tries around the world have report­ed a low birth­weight rate below 8%. Babies from Fin­land and Ice­land fare the best, with just 4% of new­borns weigh­ing less than 5.5 pounds at birth. 

In the Unit­ed States, 13.0% of African Amer­i­can babies are born at a low birth­weight, com­pared to 7.2% of white and His­pan­ic babies. 

Why this matters:

Researchers have long tracked the birth­weight of babies as a mea­sure of pop­u­la­tion health.

Smok­ing, poor nutri­tion, pover­ty, stress, infec­tions, vio­lence, obe­si­ty, mul­ti­ple births, and pre­ma­ture birth can increase the risk of a baby being born at a low birthweight.

Babies born weigh­ing less than 5.5 pounds have a greater risk of dying before their first birth­day, accord­ing to research. These new­borns also have a high­er risk of devel­op­ing dia­betes, heart dis­ease and high blood pres­sure lat­er in life.

Vis­it the KIDS COUNT Data Cen­ter for more birth data at the nation­al and state-level:

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